The chief executive of Starbucks has revealed that the coffee shop giant is to more than double its opening of new stores globally over the next year.
Howard Schultz, who is also the chairman of the Seattle-based company, said Starbucks planned to open about 500 outlets this financial year, 400 of them outside the US. He added that China would be a key market.
He said: "Our ability to navigate through the financial crisis and come out stronger gives us reason to start growing the company again."
Starbucks, which has about 17,000 coffee shops in more than 50 countries, cut back its opening programme during the downturn, including in the UK and Europe, but sales have bounced back recently.
For the 14 weeks to 3 October, Starbucks delivered record sales, up 17.2 per cent to $2.8bn, driven by underlying sales growth of 8 per cent in the United States and 7 per cent internationally.
Its plan to open 500 stores more than doubles the 223 it unveiled in its last financial year to 3 October. It also contrasts sharply with the net 45 it closed in the previous year.
This year's opening spree will be Starbucks' biggest since the 1,669 total for 2008. Mr Schultz would not reveal how many stores Starbucks will open in China, but said it would be its largest growth market in two years' time.
Speaking at an event in Yunnan province, Mr Schultz said: "I think the opportunity that we have in China – we've underestimated in terms of the number of stores and the reach that Starbucks is going to have."
Starbucks believes there is huge potential to drive coffee consumption in China, which currently stands at a meagre 22 grams annually per person, compared with a whopping 3.3 kilograms in Japan, according to data from Key Coffee.
Jinlong Wang, the head of Starbucks in China, said the number of outlets in the country would surpass 1,000 in the "near future". The coffee specialist opened its first store in China in 1999 and now has more than 400 stores on the mainland.
The coffee company typically uses partners to open licensed outlets overseas. At the event in Yunnan, Starbucks signed an agreement with two governmental organisations in the province to help local farmers promote "responsible coffee-growing practices", such as by developing and operating a base farm and processing facilities.
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